Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Muhammad: Confrontation Clause does not apply at capital sentencings

In Muhammad v. Fla. Sec. Dep’t of Corrections, No 12-16243 (Sept. 23, 2013) (2-1) (Wilson, J., dissenting), the Court reversed the grant of habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 1974 murder. The Court held that Muhammad’s Confrontation Clause rights were not violated during the penalty phase of his case, a resentencing hearing at which a witness testified about the testimony presented at the earlier guilt phase of the trial. After canvassing Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit caselaw, the Court found that the Confrontation Clause does not bar the admission of hearsay testimony at capital sentencing hearings. The Court also rejected the argument that the application of a “cold, calculated, and premeditated” statutory aggravating factor to his case violated the Ex Post Facto Clause, because that factor was not enacted until after he committed his murders. The Florida Supreme Court concluded that this aggravator added nothing new to the elements of the crimes but rather adds limitations which inure to the benefit of the defendant. The Court found that this application of the Ex Post Facto Clause was not unreasonable under clearly established law.